Spirit is a Bone : Broomberg & Chanarin commission

Spirit is a Bone

Over the last two years Broomberg & Chanarin have encountered, explored and researched the photography collections at the Library.   They have made connections with the archive and with their own work and concerns.

The book combines a new series of portraits made with a Russian camera which was made for face recognition and surveillance, ‘non collaborative portraits’, where human contact is not made, with a new critically engaged contextual essay by Eyal Weizman and a response to images from Sir Benjamin Stone’s archive.

The essay asks two main questions; What is the potential impact of technology on portraiture and citizenship?  And what is the ideological link between Stone’s activities and the photographs he collected and the facial recognition technology?

Echoing August Sander’s seminal work, Citizens of the Twentieth Century, the series of portraits are cast according to professions.  The portraits are produced with new technology, with little if any human interaction.

In the book photographs open up the relationship between technology and ideology – theories of race, class and occupation.  The photographs collected by Stone in the second half of the 19th century, in the Library of Birmingham archive, are visual evidence of his interest in history, science, nature and cultures.  Like many, widespread in the Victorian period, Stone had a need to classify, know, collect, control and own. His Album no 50 ‘Types and Races of Mankind’ includes what might be called non-consensual images, made for the scrutiny of others and to increase understanding.

The book and essay prompt questions about engaging with archives and access to them.

The book is the result of the artist’s encounters and interactions with the photography collections at the Library of Birmingham made possible by a commission from GRAIN and the Library with support from the Arts Council of England. The book is published by Mack.   Click here to pre-order a copy.

Image Credit:  Frau eines Malers
Painter’s Wife
Femme d’un peintre
Жена художника


Copyright 2016 GRAIN.